Symposium Speakers

We're proud to announce these keynote speakers, presenters and workshop facilitators - all leading voices in the Nature Play movement.




Symposium Speakers

Keynote Speaker: Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
Psychologist, Author and Managing Director of Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre.

Dr Michael Carr-Gregg is one of Australia's highest profile psychologists. He is currently the Managing Director of the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, which is committed to exploring and understanding the role of new and emerging technologies in the lives of young people.

He believes that the risks of the online environment can be managed and that technologies can be deployed to improve the mental health and well-being of young people. He wrote his PhD at the University of NSW on Adolescents with Cancer and named and founded CanTeen over 30 years ago with a group of young cancer patients.

He has worked as an academic, researcher, and political lobbyist. He is also the author of nine books including the bestselling Princess Bitchface Syndrome and is working on his tenth. Michael has been using technology in the form of web-based programs, apps and wearable devices for the last five years.

He also sits on the Board of Smiling Mind, as well as being a Community Ambassador for Big Brothers Big Sisters and Playgroup Victoria. He has been the Treasurer of the Australian Psychological Society Committee (Melbourne Branch) for the past five years and a member of the ePsychology special interest group for the APS. He is a columnist for a number of publications including Girlfriend Magazine and the Australian Boarding Schools Association publication LightsOut.

He is the resident parenting expert on Channel 7's Sunrise as well as psychologist for the Morning Show with Neil Mitchell on Radio 3AW. He is married with two children and is a Special Patron of the Hawthorn Football Club.

Keynote Speaker: Bruce McLachlan

Principal of Swanson Primary School, a school of 540 in Auckland, New Zealand.

Mr McLachlan has made international headlines for the approach his school is taking to rules governing children’s play. The school provides an environment where children have ample opportunities to learn from their mistakes, to manage risk within reason and to figure out what works by trial and error. Children ride bikes, build huts, climb trees and play-fight. The international media attention has been overwhelmingly positive. The idea of allowing ‘kids to be kids’ has resonated with people all over the world. Bullying, conflict and serious injuries are down, while creativity, problem solving and concentration are up.

Keynote Speaker: Dr Michael Nagel
Associate Professor, School of Science and Education, University of Sunshine Coast.

Dr Michael Nagel is an Associate Professor in the School of Education at the University of the Sunshine Coast where he teaches and researches in the areas of cognition, human development, behaviour and learning. He is the author of eleven books on education, child development and learning with a particular focus on the pediatric brain and used by teachers and parents in over twenty countries. His most prominent books to date include ‘BoysStir-Us: Working WITH the Hidden Nature of Boys’, ‘In the Beginning: The Brain, Early Development and Learning’, ‘Nurturing A Healthy Mind: Doing What Matters Most for Your Child’s Developing Brain, ‘It’s a Girl Thing’ and ‘In The Middle: The Adolescent Brain, Behaviour and Learning’. Dr Nagel has also delivered over 300 workshops and seminars for parents and teachers nationally and internationally.

Nominated as Australian Lecturer of the Year each year since 2010, Dr Nagel has been a guest on ‘TV New Zealand Breakfast’, ‘Sunrise’, ‘A Current Affair’ and ‘The Project’, is a member of the prestigious International Neuropsychological Society, is the Queensland Director of the Australian Council on Children and the Media and is also an Honorary Ambassador for the Protecting Childhood Organisation. Dr Nagel also sits on a number of education boards and committees and is a feature writer for ‘Jigsaw’ and the ‘Child’ series of magazines which collectively offers parenting advice to more than one million Australian readers. When he is not busy professionally, he spends his time learning the important lessons of life from his own children, Madeline and Harrison.

Hyahno Moser, Program Manager, Nature Play QLD

Like most children of his generation, Hyahno spent most of his leisure time outside, therefore it came as no surprise to his family when he choose a career in Outdoor Education. For 10 years, Hyahno was involved in devising, facilitating, teaching and leading young people through world-class, outdoor education programs, using adventure and nature to teach children vital life-skills. Hyahno is passionate about nature play and believes the Nature Play program is a positive and practical way to ensure children participate in unstructured play in nature, delivering the myriad of benefits this type of play offers their physical and emotional health.

Patrick Babrant, City of Gold Coast Naturally GC Ambassador

I have been passionate about wildlife and conservation ever since I was three years old. I created a website all about raising awareness of endangered animals, their plight and what people can do to help save them. I am extremely passionate about ending plastic pollution and reducing the amount of household waste people produce. I have encouraged my schools to become more environmentally sustainable through introducing waste reduction and recycling programs. I am the ambassador for the Gold Coast Council NaturallyGC Program.

This program is all about reconnecting the Gold Coast community with its natural environment, restoring natural areas and providing a variety of events where people to enjoy being in nature. This year I am excited to be the ambassador of Clean up Australia Day on the Gold Coast. I was in the finals for the 2016 Queenslander Young Achiever Award Environmental Achievement Award section and this year I was awarded the Gold Coast Australia Day Environmental Achievement Award. I hope to inspire other people to create positive change for our planet.

Workshop Facilitators

Workshop Facilitator: Madeline Avci
Director of Jump-Up Occupational Therapy, Director of Barefoot Nature Play.

Madeline Avci is an Occupational Therapist and Teacher who has worked with children for over twenty years in Australia, America and Turkey. She is also the mother of three energetic and imaginative boys. Madeline is a big advocate for reducing children’s time in front of screens and providing them with a multisensory childhood by getting them outside. Both at work and through her own children she sees time and time again, the joy in children’s eyes as they rise up to meet the challenges that nature provides. Madeline is the Director of Jump Up Occupational Therapy, a business that supports children and families to develop independence and resilience in their daily lives. Madeline is also the Director of Barefoot Nature Play Pty Ltd which aims to ignite children’s passion for playing outdoors. Barefoot Nature Play brings together all Madeline’s experience in a way that offers children a ‘just right’ experience in a world that often feels too hurried, stressed and chaotic.

Workshop Facilitator: Susie Berkhut

Coordinator of Payne Road OSHC, and Chairperson for QCAN

Susie has been working in a school age care service for 18 years for a P & C Association as the Coordinator. Her commitment to this sector has led her to taking on the role of Chairperson for QCAN (peak body for SAC) for the past 12 years. Building on the philosophy that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, Susie believes children should have the same opportunities for development at OSHC as they would in the home environment. Her main objective has always been to establish a service that for children, is a home away from home. Children develop in a strong and supportive community and are given the opportunities to make choices, some involving risky activities, which will assist in building on their skills and development.

Workshop Facilitator: Nigel Coates

Sparky Do Dah

Nigel Coates is a MASTER OF FUN as Sparky Do Dah. Passionate about preserving the connection to a natural childhood, Nigel spends most of his time in ‘child-space’ in nature, as an activity provider based in S.E. Qld, offering both Natural Adventures and Pop-Up Playgrounds. Nigel has perfected the ability to connect with children as an ‘enchanter’ of fun, freedom and connection to nature. Nigel regularly leads children into the wilderness and then follows their interest, wherever it may go. Having come from an Event Production background, he was appalled that the 'fairy floss, face paint and jumping castle' combo was the primary option available to engage children at community events. This disappointment ignited the fire to create healthy and developmental activities that families could enjoy together. Sparky Do Dah now provides regular services to 5 regional councils, as well as facilitating school incursions, OSHC, home-school gatherings, community events and birthday parties.  In 2015 and 2016 he was a finalist in the Nature Play QLD category of the QORF Awards, and is in the first wave of Australian 'Forest School' Leaders.

Workshop Facilitator, Carly Garner

Founder and Director of Natureweavers Earth School

Based on the Sunshine Coast, award-winning Natureweavers has been gathering children aged 2-16 years to play and learn in wildspace since 2010. Carly is an accredited Nature Pedagogue with the International Association of Nature Pedagogy, and she delivers practical sessions to inspire and encourage adults to learn in, with and from nature alongside children. Carly is an also environmental advocate with 14years experience in the non-government, community and education sectors. She has previously worked for Oxfam Australia in their International Emergencies Department, contributing to the re-establishment of sustainable communities in East Timor, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Pacific Islands. Carly managed the development and implementation of the Oxfam Australia Environmental Sustainability Plan, which directed and inspired the agency towards environmental sustainability in its operations, programs and advocacy. She is currently studying a Masters of Education, with research interests in how childhood nature play transforms into earth stewardship behaviour into adulthood.

Workshop Facilitator, Sandi Phoenix

Founding Director and Principal Facilitator at Phoenix Support for Educators

Sandi is the founding company director and Principal Facilitator at Phoenix Support for Educators. Sandi’s coaching and consultancy style comes from a strengths based perspective and is informed by a comprehensive understanding of the National Quality Framework and underpinning theory. Sandi takes a positive approach to guiding expected behavioural choices within inclusive learning environments, following vast experience working with children with disabilities and children who display complex behaviours in both early childhood settings, youth care, and school age care since 1998. Since 2009, Sandi has been involved in supporting educators and teams to implement the National Quality Framework through various roles. These roles range from individualised in-service coaching and mentoring, presenting at conferences, developing written resources, and consulting in the design of software that supports efficient and effective curriculum planning and service operations. She is highly regarded nationwide as a speaker, coach, mentor and Professional Development facilitator for the education and care sector.

Workshop Facilitator: Craig Williams

Queensland Government Indigenous Advisor for National Parks, Recreation, Sport and Racing

Craig is a descendant of Jackey-Jackey, King of Logan-Pimpama, and Jenny Graham, a prominent Aboriginal woman in the South East region.

As a Queensland Government Indigenous Advisor for National Parks, Recreation, Sport and Racing, Craig works across national, state and regional sports bodies to provide South East Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with sporting pathways and active and healthy lifestyle choices.

Craig is passionate about supportive and fulfilling environments which foster a positive transition for Aboriginal boys to proud men within urban and regional Indigenous communities. Through his work with Indigenous men’s groups, Craig utilises the didgeridoo as a catalyst for boys and men to unite and support each other through life’s journey.

Craig is a member of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 2018 Indigenous advisory committee, the Queen’s Baton design Indigenous advisory committee, Dreamworld’s Corroboree Indigenous advisory committee and is an AFL Multicultural Ambassador for 2016.


Sarah Sutter, CEO, Nature Play SA

Sarah thinks she has the best job in the world. What could be better than working with organisations and families to help children enjoy the experiences she had when she was a child, especially if it involves the sea and a fish? Sarah is a Netball Commonwealth Gold Medallist and a qualified PE teacher. She has a strong corporate background working with Qantas abroad and interstate and recently with the Adelaide Film Festival. Sarah would count her role as mum to Tom and Jazz, as her most important and rewarding role yet.

Mistress of Ceremonies

Donna Little

Consulting Manager, waytobe Pty Ltd

Donna has over 20 years’ experience working in the outdoor sector as an instructor, manager, educator and trainer. More importantly, she has a lifetime of experience playing out of doors! One of her earliest memories is of her mother teaching her how to climb and walk along fences; how to fall off; and how butter dabbed on a graze or bruise really doesn’t heal anything! One of her most recent memories is climbing the rope towers in the local playground, without a three year old tagging along. Just like Robert Fulgham, she is a believer that most of what you really need to know, you learn in (the equivalent years of) kindergarten. That is, short naps can be rejuvenating, healthy snacks keep you going longer, playing is fun, nature is a natural place for us to be, movement is life..



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